Monday, July 23, 2012

#347: Claire's Knee

(Eric Rohmer, 1970)

Speaking strictly of plot, Claire's Knee is the most complex of the six moral tales. It has the most moving parts. Rather than the typical disembodied narration, Rohmer gives Jerome a confidant in the form of Aurora to bounce his moralistic ideas off of - he even argues that her own literary curiosity is his only drive to begin a flirtation with two semi-sisters, Laura and Claire, though this seems unlikely. There is certainly a connection beyond platonic friendship between the two, but she is not the woman from whom Jerome is being tempted to stray - that is his fiancée, who for the first and only time in the series is completely offscreen. The fact that Jerome is tempted by two women rather than just one similarly breaks the mold. But Jerome's attention (and that of the viewer) quickly turns to Claire as the solitary challenge for the protagonist, and the film begins to turn on a much simpler premise.

Essentially, Jerome is a creepy older guy, justifying his flirtation with underage girls by labeling it an experiment. The climactic moment comes when Claire begins to cry and his game is now real. Claire's knee is representative of the stormy waters between friendship and romance and the occasionally blurred lines between mentor and lover. Jerome certainly condescends to Claire in this scene, but it's implied that he is doing it out of jealousy, that he can't bear to see a younger, more appropriate boy get the better of him. What's more unclear is whether or not he consciously makes the decision to stop at her knee, turning his conquest into comfort, or if he uses morality for justification of his failure (and whether that failure came from within or from a perception of rejection). Either way, it makes for a fascinating quandary.

One more thing to note about the film: the costumes, as in La Collectionnuese, are impeccable (if clearly of their time). I didn't make a note of who it was in the film and I can't find a credit online, but I'm very impressed and I wonder if the person continued to work with Rohmer and/or had a bigger career.

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